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June 11, 2022

Dear Olivia,

Over the past few months we've noticed that you've been spending all your free time creating and solving puzzles online. We are glad that you have found something that you love, and we admire your dedication and determination, although we wish you'd get more sleep.

We don't want you to stop doing what you love, but we really feel your absence. We enjoy your company- you're just fun to be around.

We thought that the best way to send you a message is through a puzzle, and we know you love challenging twists, traps and trickiness, so beware and enjoy!

Love,
Mom, Dad, Emma and Noah (and even Fluffy the Cat)

This puzzle has 3 stages:

  1. Telling time is like reading a book! However, we want you to follow your bliss, so feel free to ignore reality as you spend time in your puzzle fantasy land.
  2. Consider the number of digits on the rotating neon sign on our deck.
  3. For the final stage, before forcing anything, formulate a plan and form the answer in a uniform way.

Note: For those who cannot view images, I am sorry that there is no good way to convert the image below to text. This is a visual puzzle.

puzzle

Can you find our message to you?

Partial answers are fine as long as you have completed, or think you have completed, stage 1.

Hint #1:

The correct string pulled from stage 1 is altered once in stage 2 (some of you have already figured out stage 2) and then that string is turned into the message in stage 3. The stage 3 clue points to a number that will help transform the string into the message, but it's technically possible to find the message without finding that number.

Hint #2:
Made key parts of clues bold.

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  • $\begingroup$ Rot13(V pna frr gung zvahgr unaq naq ubhe unaqf qba'g sbyybj gur abezny eryngvbafuvc v.r. sbe rirel gjryir qrterrf gung zvahgr unaq zbirf, ubhe unaq zhfg zbir bar qrterr. Naq urapr sbe gur guveq pybpx (bar-vaqrkrq) ba gur gbc zbfg ebj, fvapr gur zvahgr unaq zbirq guerr uhaqerq qrterrf, gur ubhe unaq zhfg unir zbirq gjragl svir qrterrf juvpu vf irel pybfr gb bar (fyvtugyl yrff guna gur ynfg qvivfvba gb bar; fvapr rnpu qvivfvba rdhnyf fvk qrterrf). Qbrf guvf unir nalguvat gb qb jvgu gur zrffntr? Nz V urnqvat va gur evtug qverpgvba?) $\endgroup$ Jun 11 at 18:23
  • $\begingroup$ Nyfb, boivbhfyl gur neenatrzrag bs nycunorgf juvpu nccrnef qvfpbaarpgrq $\endgroup$ Jun 11 at 18:25
  • $\begingroup$ @JohnBrookfields rot13(Lbhe svefg bofreingvba vf n tbbq bar, ohg V pna'g fnl zber guna gung. Ohg V pna fnl gung lbhe frpbaq bofreingvba nobhg gur nycunorg jba'g znggre.) $\endgroup$
    – JLee
    Jun 12 at 13:34
  • $\begingroup$ @LukasRotter not a flag semaphore $\endgroup$
    – JLee
    Jun 12 at 13:35
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @LukasRotter sorry i just saw your latest comment. You are on the right track. For your last statement, refer to clue for stage 1. $\endgroup$
    – JLee
    Jun 14 at 18:01

1 Answer 1

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Full answer - stage 1:

The hands of each clock are pointing at a pair of letters. Transcribing the letters that each clock points to results in the following set of bigrams (hour hand listed first, then minute hand, for each pair):

 UB DD HC XM LO
 NA EC UO GK IJ
 TQ JU EL OE UC
 YY KY ER KE MI

I also noticed that

some of the clocks are displaying hands in positions that aren't actually possible on a normal analog clock:

1

So if we "ignore reality" we would only keep the pairs of letters that result from those impossible clocks. And if it's like reading a book, we'd read from left to right, top to bottom. Putting this all together gives the following string:

HCXMIJJUOEUCYYKYKEMI

Stage 2:

Clued by "neon" which has an atomic number of 10, as well as "dec(k)" which also clues 10, we ROT10 this string to produce:

RMHWSTTEYOEMIIUIUOWS

Stage 3:

As clued by the repetition of "for," we take every fourth letter in the string (looping around and skipping letters that have already been used), which spells out:

WE MISS OUR TIME WITH YOU

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  • $\begingroup$ oh man i've messed those up like three times now, will edit... $\endgroup$
    – SQLnoob
    Jun 16 at 17:05
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    $\begingroup$ Think I got it! Would've had it sooner but for whatever reason I kept making mistakes when picking which letter pairs to exclude. $\endgroup$
    – SQLnoob
    Jun 16 at 17:39
  • $\begingroup$ Stage 2. Number of Digits also clues 10 when "digits" means fingers $\endgroup$
    – JLee
    Jun 16 at 17:55

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